This Week in CongressMay 6, 2008 - by Donny Shaw
(Cross-posted from Congresspedia, the citizens’ encyclopedia on Congress.)
Once again, housing legislation (CP) aimed at reforming the Federal Housing Administration and at helping homeowners threatened with foreclosure is at the top of the list for senators and representatives this week, as debate intensifies over differing proposals. In addition, Democrats are mulling how much domestic spending to include in a $108 billion Iraq/Afghanistan supplemental, while 10 days remain before a second extension of the 2002 Farm bill expires. Negotiations, which began last year, continue as the House and Senate work to reconcile subsidy-levels and income-brackets for farmers.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), chair of the House Financial Services Committee, has proposed legislation that would force the FHA to insure some $300 billion in home loans that are close to being foreclosed. Lenders would be asked to renegotiate the loan principle, while the FHA would insure a 30-year fixed rate the borrower could afford. According to Frank, the legislation could cost taxpayers between $3 and $6 billion, depending on how many of the new loans default.
To sweeten the deal for President George W. Bush, Frank proposed tougher oversight of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (the two government-sponsored enterprises that sell mortgage-backed securities) and new regulations on the FHA. In addition, Congress might grant local housing finance agencies the authority to issue tax-exempt bonds to help some homeowners refinance their mortgages.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) are considering their options on an Iraq supplemental. With party members in both chambers eager to include a laundry list of domestic spending priorities and President Bush threatening a veto for any non-military items, striking a balance might prove difficult.
Up for possible inclusion in the war supplemental are:
- Extended unemployment benefits: The bill could as much as double the 13-week window of benefit
- Renewable energy tax credits: About $6 billion in renewable tax credits – previously stripped from last year’s energy bill and this year’s stimulus package – would not be paid for with tax increases elsewhere.
- A new GI bill for veterans’ education: A Bush-backed House proposal and one authored by Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) offer varying degrees of support for different active-duty and reserve populations, and either bill could be tacked onto the war supplemental as an amendment.
Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), the Appropriations Committee chairman, may throw a monkey wrench in the works for the Democratic leadership, with his plans to hold a mark-up of the supplemental in his committee. Reid and Pelosi had hoped to bring the legislation straight to the floor for debate, skipping the mark-up process.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has hinted that Republicans won’t fight the bill’s passage, and that his party’s membership would instead support the threatened Bush veto.
And some late news on the 2007 Farm bill (CP). Negotiations held throughout the weekend appear to be yielding some fruit, and Senate Agriculture Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) have hinted at floor votes by the end of the week. However, President Bush has also asked for another extension of the 2002 bill, this time for one year. If Congress fails to approve a final 2007 bill, look for a protracted fight over the next extension.
Today, the House Ways and Means Committee will be examining “Employment Eligibility Verification Systems.” Committee members will look a proposed enforcement mechanism requiring employers to verify the citizenship of new employees.
Following special elections in Louisiana this weekend, Congress will welcome two new members to the House of Representatives:
- http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Steve_Scalise® defeated Democrat Gilda Reed, keeping former Rep. Bobby Jindal’s 1st congressional district seat in Republican hands.
- Rep. Don Cazayoux (D) narrowly defeated Republican Woody Jenkins for the long-time Republican-held 6th Congressional District seat.
Also during the weekend, a number of new superdelegate announcements were made: Kalyn Free (Okla.), Parris Glendening (Md.), Inez Tenenbaum (S.C.), Brian Colón (N.M.), Jaime Paulino (Guam), Jaime Gonzalez Jr. (Texas), and Herman Farrell (N.Y.) endorsed Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL); Robert Martinez (Texas) and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (Md.) endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY).
For a complete list of this week’s committee schedules, see the original post on Congresspedia.